VOD film review: Uncharted
Laurence Boyce | On 27, Apr 2022
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle
Based on the popular game franchise, Uncharted brings intrepid fortune hunter Nathan “Nate” Drake (Tom Holland) to the big screen. Given that the Uncharted series itself was a mish-mash of influences, with echoes of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider in particular, it’s unsurprising that the cinematic version displays a similar air of the derivative. Nathan Drake might not sport a bullwhip or fedora, and he might avoid raiding tombs, but the beats of his adventures are as old as some of the treasures he seeks.
After being raised in an orphanage, and dealing with his brother Sam running away, Nate spends his time working as bartender and indulging in the occasional grift to keep himself afloat. One day Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) wanders into his life, and reveals that he previously worked with Nate’s brother on uncovering the mysteries of the whereabouts of a large cache of gold left behind by the crew of the infamous Magellan expedition (the first time the globe was circumnavigated). Eager to find his brother, Nate joins Victor – and fellow treasure hunter Chloe (Sophia Ali) – to solve the clues, travel the world and find all the pieces of the puzzle. But Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), a rich member of the family who funded Magellan’s expedition, and his hired mercenary Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) are hot on their tails, determined to take the gold for themselves.
There’s very little ambition within Uncharted aside from attempting to make a solid action movie. While there’s nothing wrong with that per se, it does make for an experience that settles for an almost dull predictability. “Oh look , it’s some ancient treasures that turn out to be a key.” “Quick, let’s all watch the chase through some dusty catacombs.” “Here we go, it’s a rickety old pirate ship hidden in a cave.” Anyone with a passing knowledge of the likes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Da Vinci Code or even The Goonies will have seen it all before. There are moments when the film tries to lampshade its derivativeness – a line about “playing Indiana Jones” is invoked while Nate gets to utter “Nuns. Why’d it have to nuns?” – but it all feels a bit forced.
Uncharted does try to add a little intrigue to the mix with one of the film’s central themes being about how people can trust one another, but even the likes of recent Netflix actioner Red Notice have made the whole double cross/intrigue narrative somewhat old hat.
Most of the time Fleischer provides solid action, with set pieces on a plane and in an auction house, plus Nate busting out the now de rigeur parkour skills alongside the usual balletic fight sequences. Bonus points are given, though, for the sheer audacity of the final sequence, which involves helicopters and pirate ships. It’s gloriously silly and one of the highlights of the film, for its sheer bombast if nothing else.
The cast are equally as solid. Holland’s slightly bumbling persona is on show, although his action lead status is sometimes at odds with his air of naivety and youthful looks. It works for the Spider-Man character but he needs a little bit more fire to truly command the screen in the way films like this demand. Wahlberg slinks his way through with plenty of charm, while Gabrielle clearly enjoys fulfilling the bad guy role.
Unless you’ve been buried in a tomb, then there isn’t anything here that hasn’t been done or seen before. But fans of the original games will find a few Easter eggs rolled their way. This is a diverting action film that will fill the time, at least until the next Indiana Jones sequel.